Baylor women beat Iowa State in Big 12 title game

With the way Brittney Griner and top-ranked Baylor have

dominated the Big 12, the Lady Bears’ third consecutive conference

title is really no surprise.

Especially to the runner-up.

Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said early in conference play

what everybody else was thinking – that the Big 12 race was

basically to determine who finished behind Baylor. The 23rd-ranked

Cyclones wound up second in both the regular season and the

tournament, which ended with Baylor’s 75-47 title game victory

Monday night.

”They are different than anyone in the country,” Fennelly said

after the final game. ”They’ve proven that over the last two

years.”

Along with their three Big 12 tournament championships in a row,

the Lady Bears (32-1) have won the league’s last three

regular-season titles as well – going undefeated through the league

for the last two. They became the NCAA’s first 40-win team last

season for an undefeated national title.

Griner scored 31 points, 23 by halftime as the two-time

All-American outscored Iowa State by 10 points on her own. Odyssey

Sims added 20 points with three 3-pointers in the first 4 minutes

after halftime.

”Winning never gets old, especially this one,” said Griner,

one of five Baylor seniors. ”We wanted to celebrate this,

everybody did. This is our last go-around with the Big 12. Meant

everything to us.”

Now they can focus on winning the biggest prize one more time

with their 6-foot-8 senior star.

Iowa State (23-8) got off to a good start with Anna Prins making

a 3-pointer on its opening attempt before another long-range shot

by Hallie Christofferson for a 6-5 lead. But the Cyclones then went

more than 8 minutes without scoring, a span in which they missed

six shots and had eight turnovers while Baylor scored 19 points in

a row for a double-digit lead that just kept growing.

Baylor had the lead for good at 7-6 on Griner’s putback after

she grabbed the rebound of her only missed shot out of 12 attempts

in the first half.

The Lady Bears’ fifth Big 12 tournament title – all coming in a

stretch that began in 2005, the year of their first national title

– broke a tie with Oklahoma for the most in the league.

They will surely be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA

tournament and will play their first games in two weeks on the Waco

campus, where they have won a nation-best 55 games in a row. They

have won 30 straight overall since losing to Stanford at a

tournament in Hawaii a week into the season.

”It’s always good to send a statement going into the NCAA

tournament,” Sims said. ”We’re just going out there having fun,

one game at a time.”

Baylor has won 49 consecutive regular-season and tournament

games in the Big 12, though that streak doesn’t include the NCAA

regional final loss to then-conference foe Texas A&M two years

ago in the American Airlines Center, where they won their latest

tournament title.

”We had that epic disappointment along the way. I’m never going

to forget that,” coach Kim Mulkey said. ”Those kinds of things

motivate us.”

The Lady Bears were up 41-13 at the break, holding Iowa State to

the fewest points ever in a single half of a Big 12 tournament

championship game.

Griner finished 14 of 17 shooting and had as many field goals as

Iowa State’s entire team when she came out of the game for good

with 4:12 left.

When Griner got near the Baylor bench, she shared a long hug

with Mulkey while getting a large ovation from an adoring crowd

with the game being played only about 100 miles from the Baylor

campus.

Sims, the junior All-American point guard and only non-senior in

Baylor’s starting lineup, reached down and patted the floor after

hitting her third 3-pointer from in front of the Baylor bench. That

put the Lady Bears up 50-18 and Iowa State called a timeout, during

which Mulkey enthusiastically put her arms around Sims and patted

the point guard on the back.

”When you look at a kid that works that hard on the defensive

end of the floor, it’s good to see her have an offensive production

like that,” Mulkey said. ”I’m hardest on point guards. I was

probably hardest on Odyssey in that film room (Sunday) night. …

When they have a game like today, you want to share it with

them.”

Prins had 20 points and Nikki Moody 12 for the Cyclones in their

first Big 12 title game since 2007.

Baylor was coming off a tough semifinal matchup, a 77-69 victory

Sunday over Oklahoma State, which was within three points in the

final minute after the Lady Bears had a season-high 24 turnovers.

While they never trailed, it was their only game against a Big 12

opponent this season decided by less than 10 points.

The championship game was more like the kind of games Baylor has

had in its Big 12 run, lopsided with Griner playing a big part.

”I don’t think there’s any question that everyone kind of saw

that bear kind of came out of hibernation kind of thing,” Fennelly

said.